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Nestled along the sunny Kohala Coast on Hawaii’s Big Island lies the beautiful beachside community of Waikoloa. If you’re wondering exactly where to find this tropical paradise, you’ve come to the right place.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Waikoloa is located on the west coast of Hawaii’s Big Island, about 30 minutes north of Kona International Airport.

Locating Waikoloa on the Big Island of Hawaii

Waikoloa’s Position on the Western Kohala Coast

The Waikoloa Beach Resort area stretches along the sunny western Kohala Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. Travelers flying into Kona International Airport will find Waikoloa just 30 minutes south by car along Queen Kaahumanu Highway.

Driving north from Kailua-Kona, visitors will pass through the historic towns of Kainaliu and Waimea before reaching the gates of Waikoloa.

The 119 acres of Waikoloa Beach Resort and neighboring Waikoloa Village comprise the heart of this west Hawaii community. To the south sits Anaehoomalu Bay, also called A-Bay, with its calm waters perfect for snorkeling and standup paddleboarding.

To the north is Hapuna Beach, repeatedly voted one of the world’s best beaches with over half a mile of powder soft sand.

With its seaside location on the leeward side of the Kohala Mountains, Waikoloa Beach Resort experiences mostly sunny weather year-round and slightly elevated temperatures that feel downright tropical. Gentle cooling trade winds provide natural air conditioning as well.

The stunning sunsets over the Pacific Ocean seen daily make Waikoloa a picture perfect place to stay on the Big Island.

Driving Times to Nearby Hawai’i Destinations

One advantage of Waikoloa Beach Resort’s central position along the leeward coast is the convenience of accessing popular attractions around the island. Some approximate driving times from the resort include:

  • Kona International Airport (KOA): 30 minutes
  • Kailua-Kona: 40-45 minutes
  • Waimea (Kamuela): 20 minutes
  • Puako: 10 minutes
  • Mauna Kea Summit: 90 minutes
  • Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park: 2.5-3 hours
  • Hilo: 2-2.5 hours

Day trips to all corners of the Big Island are possible from Waikoloa Beach Resort while still returning in time to take in colorful sunsets on the beach. There’s also plenty to see and do within a 15-30 minute drive including beachcombing at Spencer Park or exploring the galleries and eateries of Hawi town.

Waikoloa’s Two Main Resort Areas

Waikoloa Beach Resort

Waikoloa Beach Resort is a lush coastal resort area located on the sunny Kohala Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. Spread out over 1,350 acres, this resort features two world-class hotels – the Hilton Waikoloa Village and Marriott Waikoloa Ocean Club.

It truly offers visitors the ultimate Hawaiian vacation experience.

Some highlights of Waikoloa Beach Resort include:

  • Over 1200 guest rooms and suites at the Hilton and Marriott hotels
  • A wide variety of dining options, from casual poolside bars to fine dining restaurants featuring fresh local ingredients
  • Three stunning oceanfront pools with waterslides, waterfalls, and lazy rivers
  • An ocean-side dolphin encounter where guests can swim with these amazing mammals
  • A vibrant shopping and entertainment complex called Kings’ Shops and Queens’ Marketplace
  • World-class golf courses, including the Beach Course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr.
  • Nearby ancient Hawaiian petroglyph fields and historical sites like Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve
  • A location adjacent to the sparkling white sand beaches of Anaehoomalu Bay, perfect for snorkeling, paddleboarding, kayaking and more

With an array of activities, amenities, and natural beauty, Waikoloa Beach Resort offers the perfect home base to experience all that Hawaii’s Big Island has to offer.

Waikoloa Village

In contrast to the coastline resort area, Waikoloa Village is located about seven miles inland on the Waikoloa plateau. This community features residential neighborhoods, two golf courses, and some shopping and services.

Some details on Waikoloa Village include:

  • Primarily a residential community, with homes, condos, and townhouses to accommodate full-time residents
  • Two 18-hole golf courses – Waikoloa Village Golf Course and Waikoloa Kings’ Golf Course
  • A small commercial area called Waikoloa Highlands Center, with a market, drug store, eateries, gas station, wellness center, and other retail establishments
  • Located at a higher elevation of 1600-2000 feet, offering cooler temperatures and occasionally misty rain compared to the hot coastal areas
  • A 25-minute drive from beaches, hotels, and attractions of the main Waikoloa Resort area

With a quieter pace and local small-town feel, Waikoloa Village appeals to full-time Big Island residents, golfers, and visitors seeking an authentic Hawaii experience. The village connects to the Waikoloa Resort via the main road – Waikoloa Road.

Places to See in the Waikoloa Area

Hapuna Beach State Park

Stretching over half a mile long, Hapuna Beach is renowned for having some of the most pristine white sand beaches in Hawaii. The ocean here features calm, clear waters perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and bodysurfing. Lifeguards are on duty daily to ensure safety for beachgoers.

Hapuna Beach was voted one of the best beaches in the U.S., so it’s definitely a must-see during your stay in Waikoloa! In 2021 alone, Hapuna Beach State Park welcomed over 900,000 visitors.

Mauna Kea Beach

Just a short drive north up the coast from Hapuna sits the beautiful crescent-shaped beach of Mauna Kea. The beach features powdery white sand and gentle breaking waves, making it an ideal spot for families with young keiki (children).

When the conditions are right, Mauna Kea Beach can offer some of the best snorkeling on the whole island. Keep an eye out for honu (sea turtles) swimming in the calm, protected waters! The beach is flanked by luxury resorts, but there is public beach access parking for those not staying at one of the hotels.

Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve

For a glimpse into Hawaiʻi’s fascinating history and culture, pay a visit to the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve just south of Hapuna Beach. This site protects over 3,000 petroglyphs (rock carvings) left behind by early Hawaiian settlers.

The carvings depict all aspects of life in ancient Hawaii, with drawings of turtles, whales, canoes, human figures, and more. Archaeologists believe the petroglyphs here date back over 700 years! Guided tours of the petroglyph fields leave daily from the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel. Reservations are recommended to join one of these informative tours.

Outdoor Activities to Enjoy in Waikoloa

Golfing

Waikoloa is a golfer’s paradise with several world-class golf courses located along the Kohala Coast. The beautiful vistas overlooking the Pacific Ocean provide an incredible backdrop as you play. Some of the top courses include the Beach Course at Hualalai, designed by Tom Weiskopf, which winds through historic lava flows.

The Mauna Kea Beach Course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. is revered for its seaside holes and views of Mauna Kea volcano. For a unique desert-style course, head to the Mauna Lani North Course.

Snorkeling and Diving

The calm, protected waters along the Kohala Coast make Waikoloa an excellent spot for snorkeling and scuba diving adventures. Anaehoomalu Bay has a protected marine preserve that’s teeming with tropical fish and sea turtles.

Snorkel tours are available that take you to secluded coves and vibrant reefs that are home to eels, rays, and octopuses. For diving, head offshore from Kawaihae Harbor to explore underground lava tubes, arches, and caverns at sites like Turtle Pinnacle and the Waiʻaha Underwater Cave.

No matter your experience level, you’ll be amazed by the underwater world.

Whale Watching

Each winter over 10,000 humpback whales make the long journey from Alaska to mate and birth calves off the Kona Coast. Waikoloa’s vantage points like Puako Beach, the Mauna Lani lookout, and the Fairmont Orchid make ideal places for spotting these magnificent creatures breaching, tail slapping, and playing.

You might even see mothers teaching their calves. Or, get out on the water for a closer look on a whale watching cruise. There’s no experience quite like having a 40-ton whale suddenly surface near your boat – truly an awe-inspiring sight!

Conclusion

With postcard-worthy beaches, luxurious resorts, championship golf courses, and incredible outdoor recreation, Waikoloa is undoubtedly one of Hawaii’s premier destinations. Understanding exactly where it’s situated along the Kohala Coast helps you better plan your Hawaiian getaway.

We hope this guide gave you a comprehensive overview of beautiful Waikoloa, Hawaii and where to find it on the Big Island’s golden Kona Coast.

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